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Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

Citizens Union

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Top Stories of 2001?

Elizabeth Kolbert staff writer, New Yorker
Infrastructure may not sell papers, but it will make news in 2001. The city's watershed is endangered, its transit system is strained, its schools are still crumbling, and its only remaining garbage dump, Fresh Kills, is closing. Perhaps this is why Bill Clinton doesn't want to run for Mayor.

Stephen DiBrienza, member, City Council
The top story will be the fact that we are literally rebuilding our government. There will be a new mayor, a new comptroller, a new public advocate and 36 out of 51 city council members will be new. It's the most fundamental change in our government probably in modern history. It's about the direction of New York City in the post Giuliani era. Who's at the table in the next government and whose voice will be heard? That depends on who's running and who's elected.

One of the significant issues within that context will be the battle over public education. Will advocates of public education get to hold sway on the real issues that should dominate debate or will the debate be about governance and control of the budget. You can sit around and argue about governance and control or you can argue about ways to improve education.

Brian Lehrer, talk show host, On the Line WNYC
As term limits run Rudy Giuliani from office, the mayoral race will get contentious early among the major contenders. But since most of the leading hopefuls are so well known to most New Yorkers, and have so few personal skeletons in their closets, they'll discover they have no choice but to run on - gasp! - the issues. Gotham will survive it, even the media.

Conn Nugent, executive director, J.M. Kaplan Fund
1. Election Fever! / Election Snooze... The Big Turnover of NYC elected officials will be everybody's Number One Story in late summer. Until then, though, the great slumbering electorate will be much more worried about Derek Jeter's long-term future with the (finally disappointing) Yankees.
2. Financial Bummer... You get fat on Wall Street and Silicon Alley; you diet there too. The growth in city revenues sputters to a halt just as labor negotiations get tough, the bills on garbage disposal fall due, and aspiring politicos promise the moon to every borough. Something's going to give.
3. Subway Tsouris... Crowding and lateness problems actually get worse, particularly on the overstressed 2, 3, 4, and 5 trains. Russianoff-for-Mayor campaign frightens MTA into a semblance of decent service by Labor Day.
4. Rudy's Edifice Complex... Having killed Joe Rose's Zoning Reform (after having postponed-to-death any decent chance for a good deal on Governors Island), the mayor realizes that his physical legacy will pretty much be seen only by Staten Island commuters and the thirteen season-ticket holders for the two Class A bush teams playing in their gilded public stadiums. Look out, Hells Kitchen!
5. Bill's Place... Former President Bill Clinton opens a prosperous bar on Central Park South. The ex-Chief Exec regularly occupies the focal seat of a large, round-tabled corner banquette, from which he holds forth to a rotating legion of luminaries from the realms of arts, sports, and international diplomacy.

Alair Townsend, publisher, Crain's New York Business
There will be two big stories, the race for the new mayor and the economy.

For the mayor, there will probably be a run-off in the democratic primary. The dark horse candidate is Mike Bloomberg. If he decides to run he'll make it interesting.

For the economy, there will be growth, probably like 35,000 jobs and that will seem like less, and it will be less than the torrid place this year. New York should outpace the nation. It will be interesting how people react; there is such a nervousness now.

Nathan Leventhal, president, Lincoln Center
The closing down of city government. This will happen on the very last day of 2001, when everybody whom New Yorkers thought was in power is no longer in power

Henry Stern, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation
We will have a Republican president, a Republican governor, and a Republican mayor. For one year, the elephant will be in ascendancy.

Anthony Weiner, member of Congress
There's going to be a Bush-Watch; he's going to give Saturday Night Live plenty of material. But the attention is going to be mostly outside the beltway. The mayoral race is going to dominate.

David Jones, executive director, Community Service Society
1. People who are still on welfare will lose their entitlements at the end of 2001 and go on an untested emergency program. There have been a lot of people who have gotten off welfare, but there are still about a half million people on it, and this will affect them.
2. The healthcare crisis will worsen. There are 11 voluntary hospitals troubled or on the verge of bankruptcy. The number of uninsured is going up dramatically, because of immigrants and the large number of people getting off welfare and losing their entitlements. There were about 125,000 legal immigrants last year, and that immigration should continue this year. Because of what Congress has done there are no entitlements.
3. The question is how much can we mobilize and get them to register. There was a major surge in voter registration for the poor, and among groups who traditionally haven't registered.

John Sabini, member, City Council
Solid waste. I said that last year, but it's going to become even more of an issue.

Stuart Elliott, advertising columnist, New York Times
1. The wacky elections. With term limits brooming out many familiar faces, the races will be too close to call and too confusing to watch as dozens of pols try changing jobs, seeking to move up or even sideways.
2. Rudywatch. What will the Mayor do after he leaves office? Which woman will accompany him, his wife or his girfriend? Or both?
3. Stadium fever. Will we get a new stadium on the West Side? Will the bid for the Summer Games here in 2012 proceed smoothly or was it just a pipe dream?

Norman Siegel, executive director, New York Civil Liberties Union
The big story of 2001 is the end of the Giuliani era. There will be lots of stories trying to define his legacy. I think New Yorkers will realize that one part of the legacy is how much his administration trampled on First Amendment freedoms. Since 1994, the New York Civil Liberties Union has prevailed in 23 of the 26 First Amendment cases we brought against the Administration.

Eric Schneiderman, state senator
In the wake of the Republican coup, I think things will become more partisan, not less partisan. The rhetoric of nonpartisanship will last for a minute and a half. We will have the most confrontational and divided session of Congress in history. The country is completely polarized and both sides have more animosity toward the other and the stakes are very high. Open warfare will break out very quickly.

There will be a big trickle-down effect. In Albany, things will be more contentious and partisan.

The threat of a Bush tax cut and the ensuing wealth effect will put the markets in a tailspin.

In New York State, we are going to finally repeal the Rockefeller drug laws. A consensus has emerged in all areas of the state that the present system is not working.

It will take all year if not more for the mayor and the teachers union to reach a contract settlement. Because of that and the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case [challenging the allotment of state funds for education] there will be a major new statewide movement to correct the underfunding and mismanagement of schools in New York City. The first and most obvious thing is we have to pay teachers more. The Campaign for Fiscal Equity case is going to drive home the failure of state government to do its job. I predict the state will lose the case and have a judicial gun to its head."

We will raise the minimum wage in New York State.

Joshua Rosenkranz, executive director, Brennan Center for Justice
1.The impact of term limits on the shape of city government. City council staffs will become more empowered because they are not going to be term-limited out like their bosses. New blood in government is good, there's always a danger that the arteries of government can harden without new blood."
2.The impact of campaign finance laws. The 4:1 match for candidates will draw in candidates that would never have dreamed of running for office because they couldn't stomach the money chase. There will be a different quality of candidate.
3. Welfare and how the city will deal with the wake of the 1996 reform. It's been hunky-dory for five years. Welfare recipients had a lifeline, and now it is taken away. We'll have to grapple with the question of whether we're prepared to let them sink.

Nita M. Lowey, member of Congress
I think the Internet economy will be important in the next year. What federal legislation does to grow that portion of the economy is crucial. For example, there is move to tax the internet.

Charles Rangel, member of Congress
I hope 2001 is the year that we'll be getting more money back than we're sending to Washington.

Claire Shulman, Queens borough president
The Jets will come to Queens. We're opening the first new city hospital in many years. We'll be constructing the Frank Sinatra school [school for the arts]. There will be new residential buildings on Queens West. We're expanding the Hall of Science. These are the things we do every day. But they don't seem to be the type of stories the press wants to write about. We're finishing a $100 million storm sewer that runs from Kennedy Airport to Grand Central. Nobody gives a shit about sewers -- except the people who don't have them.


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